Arnhem Downtown Walking Tour, Arnhem

Arnhem Downtown Walking Tour (Self Guided), Arnhem

Sitting on the banks of the Nederrijn and Sint-Jansbeek rivers in the eastern Netherlands, the city of Arnhem, nicknamed the "Green City on the Rhine," is celebrated for a blend of vibrant city life and lush tranquil greenery. Its name is thought to originate from an amalgamation of the Old German words “arn” (for "eagle") and “heem” (for "home"), thus signaling its historical significance as a settlement.

Arnhem was first documented in 893 as Oppidium Arnoldi Villa. Its official establishment occurred in 1233 when Otto II, Count of Geldern from Zutphen, granted it city rights.

In 1443, Arnhem joined the Hanseatic League, and in 1473, fell to Charles the Bold. It shifted control several times until becoming part of the Republic of the Seven United Provinces in 1585. France occupied the city in the 17th and 18th centuries, leading to significant urban expansion in the 19th century.

Throughout the 19th century, Arnhem emerged as an elegant resort town renowned for its scenic charm, earning the nickname "The Little Hague of the East." This was partly due to the affluent sugar barons and planters from the Indies who made their homes here, similar to those in The Hague.

In September 1944, Arnhem was a major site of an Anglo-American airborne operation and subsequent intense combat known as the Battle of Arnhem. After the war, the city's reconstruction continued until 1969.

Today, Downtown Arnhem is a colorful locale, boasting a medley of historical and modern attractions. The city's original grain market, is now the heart of Arnhem's nightlife and a popular meeting place surrounded by lively bars and cafes.

One cannot miss Saint Eusebius' Church, a monumental temple, partially destroyed during World War II and beautifully restored, featuring a striking tower that offers panoramic views of the city. Nearby, the Sabre Gate, the only remaining gate of the medieval city walls, stands as a testament to Arnhem's rich history.

The Devil's House, named so for its grotesque figures adorning the façade, offers another glimpse into Arnhem's past. For nature and science enthusiasts, the Dutch Water Museum in the picturesque Sonsbeek Park is an interactive museum dedicated to all aspects of water.

Arnhem's downtown is not just the administrative heart of the city but also a repository of its cultural and historical patrimony. Our self-guided tour invites you to explore, learn, and enjoy the beauty of this lovely Dutch city and experience the harmonious blend of history and modernity, nature and urbanity that it represents.
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Arnhem Downtown Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Arnhem Downtown Walking Tour
Guide Location: Netherlands » Arnhem (See other walking tours in Arnhem)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.0 Km or 1.9 Miles
Author: Dee
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Korenmarkt (Grain Market)
  • Stichting Historische Kelders Arnhem (Historical Foundation Arnhem Cellars)
  • Sint-Eusebiuskerk (Saint Eusebius' Church)
  • Sabelspoort (Sabre Gate)
  • Duivelshuis (Devil's House)
  • Sint-Walburgisbasiliek (Saint Walburg's Church)
  • Ketelstraat (Kettle Street)
  • Koepelkerk (Dome Church)
  • Nederlands Watermuseum (Dutch Water Museum)
  • Sonsbeek Park
Korenmarkt (Grain Market)

1) Korenmarkt (Grain Market)

The Korenmarkt is a central square in the heart of Arnhem. It is well-known for its bars, restaurants, and outdoor seating areas, making it a popular entertainment spot in Arnhem. It hosts various events, including King's Day and Ascension Day celebrations. Arnhem's reputation as a King's Day destination in the Netherlands adds to the square's importance.

The Korenmarkt's history is linked to Arnhem's growth. In the 13th century, protective structures like ramparts and city walls were built. Over time, this led to the development of markets, warehouses, and accommodations in the city center. In the 19th century, King William I decided to remove the city walls, connecting Arnhem to trade routes.

The Korenmarkt, formerly known as the Nije Merckt (New Market), has been a grain market since 1563. In 1845, an open gallery was built, replaced by the Korenbeurs in 1899, which served as a grain trading center until World War I. During the war, it also housed Belgian refugees. Later, it became a cinema for Focus film theatre until 2018 when Focus moved to a new location. Plans are in place to convert the Korenbeurs into a food hall.

Since the 1960s, the Korenmarkt has evolved into a hub for catering establishments, solidifying its role as an entertainment center in Arnhem. It continues to host local and regional events, especially on King's Day and Ascension Day, reinforcing Arnhem's reputation as a prime King's Day destination in the Netherlands.
Stichting Historische Kelders Arnhem (Historical Foundation Arnhem Cellars)

2) Stichting Historische Kelders Arnhem (Historical Foundation Arnhem Cellars)

The Historical Foundation Arnhem Cellars was established on October 24, 2003, with the purpose of preserving and promoting the rich cultural heritage of Arnhem. This organization oversees the operation of a unique complex of historical cellars, which are integral to the city's cultural and economic vitality. By maintaining these historical sites, the Foundation aims to enhance the tourism sector and foster a deeper appreciation for Arnhem's historical architecture and heritage.

The cellars serve as a versatile venue for a variety of arts and cultural events. These underground spaces provide an atmospheric setting for exhibitions, performances, and other cultural activities, making them a vibrant part of Arnhem's cultural landscape. The adaptive reuse of these cellars not only helps in their conservation but also breathes new life into these ancient spaces, ensuring they remain relevant and well-preserved for future generations.

The Historical Foundation Arnhem Cellars also opens these historical sites to the public, offering guided tours that provide insights into the architectural and historical significance of the cellars. These tours are an educational experience, allowing visitors to delve into the history of Arnhem and appreciate the efforts made to preserve its cultural landmarks.
Sint-Eusebiuskerk (Saint Eusebius' Church)

3) Sint-Eusebiuskerk (Saint Eusebius' Church) (must see)

Saint Eusebius' Church stands as the tallest and largest building in Arnhem. Reaching a height of 93 meters, this majestic structure dominates the city skyline. Named after Saint Eusebius, a 4th-century Bishop of Vercelli, the church is a significant landmark and a beacon of Arnhem's historical and architectural heritage. Its towering presence and historical importance make it a focal point for both locals and tourists alike.

A notable feature of Saint Eusebius' Church is the elevator installed in 1994, which offers visitors a unique experience. This modern addition allows visitors to ascend to the top of the spire, providing panoramic views of Arnhem from the city's highest vantage point.

Beneath the grandeur of the main church, the crypt offers a starkly contrasting experience. The dimly lit crypt invites visitors to explore its cavernous depths, where a number of areas resemble old gaol cells or exhumed shallow graves. This eerie and somber part of the church allows visitors to encounter ancient human bones, left in their original state. The crypt provides a poignant reminder of the church’s long history and the many lives that have passed through its walls, offering a deeply reflective and somewhat haunting journey through time.
Sabelspoort (Sabre Gate)

4) Sabelspoort (Sabre Gate)

Sabre Gate, also known as Eusebius Gate, is a historically significant structure. The gate's origins date back to 1357, marking it as a medieval fortification. Its primary purpose was to defend the city, a common function for such gates in the fortification systems of medieval European towns. Over time, Sabre Gate's role evolved, and it also served as a detention facility for prisoners and individuals considered insane, reflecting the multifaceted use of civic structures in the past.

During the Second World War, the area surrounding Sabre Gate suffered extensive damage. The gate itself, although damaged, survived the conflict. The houses that once clustered around it were not so fortunate and were demolished after the war due to the severe destruction they had sustained. Despite the surrounding devastation, the Sabre Gate's resilience allowed it to be restored, preserving a critical piece of Arnhem's architectural and historical heritage.

The gate has undergone two significant restorations, the first in 1642 and the second in 1952. The latter restoration was particularly crucial as it followed the wartime damage. This restoration effort was not merely about repairing the gate but also about reintegrating it into the fabric of the city. After the 1952 restoration, the gate became part of the Province House of Gelderland.
Duivelshuis (Devil's House)

5) Duivelshuis (Devil's House)

Originally owned by Duke Charles of Gelre in 1518, the Devil's House has seen numerous transformations and ownership changes over the centuries. Following the Duke's death in 1539, the house was sold to Maarten van Rossum, a notable military leader of that era. Under his ownership, the house underwent significant reconstruction in 1543 and was officially named "House of Maarten van Rossum."

The building's intriguing name, "Devil's House," is derived from the unique satyr ornaments adorning its facade. These mythical creatures, often associated with revelry and mischief, contributed to the house's eerie and captivating reputation. Over the years, this distinctive feature has inspired numerous regional folktales, embedding the house deeply into local lore and adding to its mystique.

In 1828, the municipality of Arnhem acquired the Devil's House, marking a new chapter in its history. The house was subsequently renovated and, within two years, was repurposed for use as the town hall. This adaptation underscored the building's architectural and historical significance, ensuring its preservation and continued relevance in the civic life of Arnhem.
Sint-Walburgisbasiliek (Saint Walburg's Church)

6) Sint-Walburgisbasiliek (Saint Walburg's Church)

Saint Walburg's Church is renowned for being one of the oldest churches in the city. Constructed in the Gothic style, its distinctive facade is characterized by two prominent towers at the front, a feature that is relatively rare among Dutch churches. The church underwent a major reconstruction in 1855 under the direction of architect Th. Molkenboer and was re-established in 1951. Its architecture presents a striking combination of austere, massive brickwork and the elaborate details typical of the Gothic style.

The church's origins are deeply connected to the influence of the Abbey of Prüm in Germany, which had significant holdings in Arnhem from early times. In 1315, the chapter of Saint Walburgis from Tiel, having been expelled from their hometown, found refuge in Arnhem. Count Reinoud I of Gelre facilitated their settlement on the condition that he could stay overnight whenever he visited. The canons subsequently built Saint Walburg's Church in the 14th century, blending robust brick construction with intricate Gothic elements.

Over the centuries, Saint Walburg's Church has undergone numerous transformations. After being taken over by Protestants in 1579, it was repurposed as a military prison and arsenal. In 1808, during the reign of Louis Napoleon, the church was returned to the Roman Catholic community.

The historical significance of Saint Walburg's Church is also tied to its endurance through turbulent times, particularly during World War II. The Battle of Arnhem, one of the war's fiercest confrontations, took place near the church, marking it as a silent witness to the horrors and heroism of that era. Despite the damage suffered, the church's restoration efforts have preserved its historical essence.
Ketelstraat (Kettle Street)

7) Ketelstraat (Kettle Street)

Kettle Street is a prominent and bustling street in Arnhem. Known for its vibrant commercial activity, Kettle Street is one of the main shopping destinations in the city. Lined with a variety of stores, from well-known international brands to local boutiques, it attracts both locals and tourists who come to enjoy the diverse shopping experience. The street's central location and lively atmosphere make it a key part of Arnhem's urban landscape.

In addition to its retail offerings, Kettle Street is also steeped in history. The street's name hints at its historical roots, possibly linked to metalworking or trade activities that might have been prevalent in the area during medieval times. Today, while the exact origins of its name might be a subject of historical curiosity, Kettle Street remains a vital artery of Arnhem's city life, blending the city's rich past with its modern-day vibrancy. Visitors strolling down Kettle Street can enjoy not only shopping but also a glimpse into the dynamic and historical heart of Arnhem.
Koepelkerk (Dome Church)

8) Koepelkerk (Dome Church)

The Dome Church history traces back to 1817 when the dilapidated St. John's Church was demolished, making way for a new structure. Initially named the 'New Church,' it was commissioned by the Dutch Reformed Church to alleviate the burden on the St. Eusebius Church. Designed by Anthony Aytinck van Falkenstein, the Dome Church drew inspiration from the AmsterdamDome Church, featuring an octagonal design that distinguished it as a unique architectural gem.

Throughout its history, the Dome Church served various functions, including hosting the 'Yellow Riders,' soldiers of the mobile artillery stationed at the Willem Barracks. Over the years, ownership of the church changed hands, eventually coming under the Reformed Church (liberated) in 1961. In 2023, this congregation merged with the Dutch Reformed Churches, marking a new chapter in the church's journey.

The Dome Church underwent significant renovations and restoration efforts, notably in 1976 and again in 2012/2013. These restoration projects revitalized the church's interior and infrastructure, including the installation of a restored pipe organ dating back to 1841/1842, crafted by renowned Dutch organ builder Carl Friedrich August Naber. Additionally, the renovations created a spacious basement beneath the church hall, which serves as a meeting room, and reinstated the original second gallery, enhancing both the aesthetic appeal and functional versatility of the Dome Church.
Nederlands Watermuseum (Dutch Water Museum)

9) Nederlands Watermuseum (Dutch Water Museum)

The Dutch Water Museum is dedicated to educating visitors about all aspects of freshwater, including drinking water and sanitation. Situated in the picturesque Sonsbeek Park, the museum incorporates a historic water mill dating back to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The concept of a water museum quickly gained traction, and with the support of many contributors, the Dutch Water Museum was established. This interactive museum invites visitors to learn about water management and conservation through engaging, hands-on experiences.

Located near the city center of Arnhem, the museum offers a wide range of activities suitable for the entire family. Visitors can explore the intricacies of sluices, pumping stations, and sewers, conduct experiments in the water lab, and enjoy educational films in the water cinema. The museum's interactive approach ensures that learning about water is not just informative but also fun and engaging.

The centerpiece of the museum is the permanent exhibition, "Water World." This exhibition features over 50 interactive presentations that illustrate various aspects of water management. Visitors can discover how sluices and pumping stations help prevent floods, understand the composition of the human body in terms of water, and learn about the intricacies of the sewage system.
Sonsbeek Park

10) Sonsbeek Park (must see)

Sonsbeek Park, the most renowned park in Arnhem, holds the distinction of being the first large city park in the country. This historical park offers visitors a serene escape into nature with its expansive grounds filled with a diverse array of trees, plants, and flowers. The park's landscape is beautifully complemented by numerous ponds, elegant fountains, and two charming waterfalls, providing picturesque spots for relaxation and contemplation.

At the heart of Sonsbeek Park is the House Sonsbeek, also known as "The White Villa." This historic building adds a touch of architectural elegance and serves as a landmark within the park. Nearby, the Palatine teahouse offers a quaint spot for refreshments, while two popular restaurants, the Farm and Sonsbeek Pavilion, provide delightful dining options. These establishments enhance the visitor experience by offering scenic views and delicious meals in the midst of the park's natural beauty.

Sonsbeek Park is also home to the Dutch Water Museum (Nederlands Watermuseum), an interactive museum dedicated to educating visitors about all aspects of freshwater. The museum features hands-on exhibits that cover topics such as drinking water, sanitation, and water management.

Throughout the year, Sonsbeek Park hosts a variety of events and activities, further enriching its vibrant atmosphere. From art exhibitions and music concerts to seasonal festivals and outdoor markets, there is always something happening in the park. These events, combined with the park's natural beauty and historical charm, make Sonsbeek Park a dynamic and integral part of Arnhem's cultural and recreational landscape.